Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Tequila Sunrise ... but who saw the sun rise ?


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dead Souls

1) One fine morning, a lady goes to her supervisor at a workplace and says, “I need 3 days leave. My grandfather passed away.” The Supervisor lifts her head, “Oh no! You are not going to fool me with these stories and get some days’ leave! I would like to speak to your mother. Right now.”
The lady pulls out her cell phone and dials the number and is about to mouth a hello into the phone when the supervisor snatches the cell phone from her hand uttering, “I know all the tricks you and your mother may play. All for some leave! Let me talk to her directly.”
The supervisor gets on the call and barks something like “So I heard your father passed away?” Which is presumably confirmed by the mother.
The call ends. And the supervisor tells the lady as to why she requires 3 days leave? what is she going to do in three days anyway ? The grandfather has anyway died!

2) A colleague of mine lost his father all of a sudden few weeks back and had to fly urgently out of town. He reportedly requested for 20 days leave and was granted the leave. 10 days or so pass by when his manager/supervisor walks up to me one evening and starts off about how this colleague has not yet turned up at work, has gone on leave for a long time, so much work pending, blah blah blah....... I keep quiet and stare at him not knowing what to respond. When he goes on and on, it gets me all charged up and I retort "Well, he has not gone for a vacation. His dad died all of a sudden!” Our conversation ended then and there but it left a disgusting taste in me...

Both these unrelated incidents totally cheesed me off by this insensitive attitude of the Supervisor and the manager - at the workplace, which is in most cases like our second home given the amount of time we spend there. It definitely does not need extra intelligence to figure the sorrow, anguish, anger and frustration caused by the loss of a near and dear one. The least one can do is to be a good support for the person going through such a phase and ensure to be sensitive, kind and patient with him.
Does that call for much effort ?
The answer is quite simple: Yes. And we will go that extra yard if we care for the person from a humanitarian level.


While I was in graduation college, a friend of mine lost her father to a heart attack in the morning. It jolted all of us who knew her and her family due to the suddenness with which it happened. We must have been around 18-19 years that time. I used to go to her place every day to be there with her, though honestly I was at a loss for words whenever I met her that time. Words are such poor comforters in times of death. I mean, what can you say to make the other person feel better, happy and cheerful ? Absolutely nothing.

So we would spend afternoons together at her place in a very quiet way, trying to read the newspapers, staring at the walls, listening to the visitors and guests go on about her 'plight', taking her dog for walks etc.

On one such afternoon, she was in a particularly emotional mood when by way of consolation and for want of not knowing anything else to say, I said something like "I understand". She immediately replied, "No, you don't. You just do not realise what it is to lose a parent. So dont say that".

Does one always understand the depth of emotions only when he/she has been through a similar experience ?
What about the quality of empathy ? Which comes if we open up our minds and listen ? Does n’t all this constitute the emotional quotient of a person ?


Dictionary.com describes 'empathy' as follows :

–noun 1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.


“We may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all—the apathy of human beings.” - Helen Keller


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

After 2 years on the hunt (of course, in my laidback lethargic style, which again is quite a sophisticated way of describing laziness), I have finally taken the plunge.... :)
So what's with the staller, excusez-moi!!! This was a swift move!!
Checkmate, Saucy Sardonix?!!

Monday, April 21, 2008


My calendar's finally out! Yippee!

All thanks to a 'general frustration' of not liking any of the new year calendars, I thought why not make my own calendar with my favourite pictures ? I was doubtful as to how I would go about it given my lack of graphic designing skills. Shared this during a phone conversation with A who immediately volunteered to help me and encouraged me to plunge head-on into the assignment.
Started this in January like a miserable late-latif and by february it was put on the back burner due to a big project I was working on. March - I told myself I should not let this fade away.. and decided to re-arrange and print from April 2008 to March 2009 (the financial year).
All the photographs were taken by me in the course of the year gone by with a couple or so taken in 2006. The prints of some snaps like the papaya leaves, paintings, the leaves behind the glass (already posted in this blog) came out beautifully but a favourite sunset and the yawning lioness, got fairly botched in the print versions! :(

Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado

This is a series of paintings hung around the stairs in a hotel in Pondicherry. "Faithful as a slot machine"!!! Touche!

Below the papaya tree at home. One of my favourite sunday spots!

A says this sunset at Sravanabelagola has a water-colour effect!
I keep clicking this kind of pictures all the time - looking up at the trees in the background of the blue sky. And yes, there is a lot of 'sky' in most of my pictures.
The beautiful Jog Falls!
Refer my earlier comment. My favourite tree also would n't be spared of the ordeal!

The yawning lioness, totally unruffled by its onlookers at the Lion/Tiger Safari in Bannerghatta - I love this snap!
The mushroom in the midst of withered leaves ....

I printed 4 sets thinking atleast 2 will end up at my home and to my surprise, I don't have even a single one to keep with me, for memory sake. And got 5 more orders! Plus financial advice from K who says I should treat this as Business Development expenses! Uff, too much!

A is my 50 % partner in this venture, if I could call her that. I can't thank her enough for her patience and perseverance (to see my photo collection and help in shortlisting 12) and for explaining at length how to go about executing the creative part of it. Last but not the least, for giving her artistic inputs and doing a very elegant layout design!

Next up : A has an array of ideas and creativity to unleash. Watch this space!! ;)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

'If' and the process of writing

Shashi Tharoor wrote a scathing article on Rudyard Kipling's poem ‘If’ in last week’s Sunday Magazine edition of ‘The Hindu’. As he himself confesses, this is not the first time he has had “a few unkind things” to say on Rudyard Kipling.

Tharoor candidly acknowledges the poem as a favourite in his younger days. “…..he certainly had a way with words, and the words in this poem were not only inspirational, they were rhythmically recitable — and they rhymed pretty well too.”

Tharoor further goes on to introduce the historical context when the poem was written by Kipling. And concludes “So what many see as an inspirational poem full of stirring aphorisms for young people to live by is in fact little more than an apologia for an imperialist misdeed.” “It is time to retire this poem from our curriculums. It is time to relegate Kipling to the darkest recesses of our history, where he and his ilk belong.”

But it makes me wonder whether such a step is warranted in the first place…..

Yes, despite having won the Nobel Prize for Literature way back in early 1900s, Kipling is now widely regarded as an imperialist and racist. The ‘white man’s burden’ will haunt him forever, I suppose! No doubts about that. But how about appreciating literature for literature’s sake?

The poem by itself does not talk about the historical context to an average reader and is quite an inspiring read by itself. It is merely a beautifully written poem consisting of words intricately woven together, taking a moral high ground. I suppose it is for this very reason it still finds a place in English textbooks and students recite it in poetry competitions. Lines of the poem are quoted to this day especially the (evergreen!) famous lines put up at the entrance of the Centre Court at Wimbledon :
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;”

Each writer writes on various topics of his/her interests – on a general as well as at a specific level. There is almost always a background which spurs the creative instincts of a writer and in my view, this holds true for most works of art- perhaps it can be extended to the process of creativity? Would n’t there be a tipping point when one starts doing something ? Or an incident which provides the initial spark (and/or general context) to write about a particular feeling in relation to that incident? Is n’t that how the process of writing flows ? And is n't this process of putting words on a piece of paper – be it a poem, novel, short story, play or any other form – quite internal to the writer who is, of course guided by his/her ideologies, beliefs, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, among others, which then serves as a background for that piece of writing ?

PS : The poem “If” happens to be one of my favourite poems (I had posted it on this blog as well) and I feel a surge of inspiration flowing through my veins everytime I read it. I cannot however deny that I did not know the historical context (vaguely) or about Kipling’s imperialist leanings. Not given to any of the views attributed to Kipling, I merely choose to separate the historical context from stopping my enjoyment of what I feel is a good piece of literature.

PPS : In a modern day context, I honestly wonder if if I would react in a similar way to a beautiful piece of writing by say –for example - Osama Bin Laden or Prabhakaran, Bal Thackeray or even George Bush. And therein ends the similarity!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Musings - a movie, a book and little bit more...

Watched a neat movie couple of weeks back- “Khuda kay Liye”.
Amidst all the publicity of it being the first Pakistani movie to be released in India in 4 decades, I liked the overriding theme and the many issues the director has tried to address in a pretty rational manner. Full marks to him for the end product.

And why Islamic fundamentalism ? Does n’t ‘extremism’ in any religion or ideology bring about a similar result ?

While on the movie, I was trying to remember the movie I watched on the big screen before that- ‘Casino Royale’ perhaps?! I can’t even recollect!

From watching a movie a week (and this is excluding the 1-2 movies I used to watch on Star movies, HBO, Zee and Sony TV on a daily basis) while in law college to watching a movie once in you-don’t-remember-when is quite a journey, if you may call it that, I suppose.

While the movie watching habit has definitely been on a gradual decline over the last 3 years or so, what I have ensured to not just keep afloat, but alive and kicking is my reading habit. In the last 2 months, I read “The Kite Runner” (breezy and enjoyable) and “A Thousand Splendid Sons (soulless!) by Khaled Husseini, “The Afghan” by Frederick Forsyth (interesting initially, but then the ‘neo-con Bush’ agenda took over), “Mistress” by Anita Nair (fascinating especially the interplay between Kathakali, art and Indian mythology set in the background of an adulterous relationship in Kerala), besides some writings of Tagore and poetry (off and on).

While these are all fiction/bestseller category (except Tagore and the poetry bit) and relatively easy on the mind to read after a hard day’s work, what had me gripped was the unexpected one! Till I saw that book, I never knew about it. Nor have I read about the author or his other books.

The title “The Swallows of Kabul” first caught my attention at the bookshop while I was searching for an old book of William Dalrymple. The photograph on the cover was haunting- A woman in a light blue burqa amidst the dry landscape of the mountains and some building in ruins (reminded me of that afghan girl’s photograph which appeared on National Geographic magazine ages ago).

“In the middle of nowhere, a whirlwind spins like a sorceress flinging out her skirts in a macabre dance; yet not even this hysteria serves to blow the dust off the calcified palm trees thrust against the sky like beseeching arms.” Thus began the first few lines.

And I bought the book to finish reading it the very next day. A hard-hitting book, written in a very poignant manner, on the despair and hopelessness faced by 2 couples under the Taliban and how the prevailing socio-economic situation plays havoc with their individual lives, which of course, has spun out of control from their hands. Very depressing, horror-ridden and thought-provoking.

What is the end purpose of all this – you wonder? And, more importantly, at what cost does one pursue that purpose? At any cost? So it seems.

It only made me realize (all the more) how we are so much better off living in a democracy – with all its hassles, corruption et al.

I am digressing here, but me thinks democracy, for all its flaws and imperfections, is definitely the best solution mankind has been able to come up when it comes to forms of government – at the end of the day, it does have some semblance of equity, fairness and continuity of process. The evolving role of the modern state vis-à-vis enriching quality of human life and facilitating the development of groups of people is a subject which has been on my mind and reading this book only crystallized those thoughts further. Perhaps will write about it soon.

PS: Reading another interesting book "Age of Kali" by William Dalrymple and excited about my first Kafka book, next on the list! Has the metamorphosis begun ?!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

sitting on my deadlines and watching them die.....

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ode to a city!

On a 2 day trip to the city of Hyderabad some time back, I literally fell in love with the sights and sounds of the city, its old world charm - in the Charminar and its bylanes, Lad Bazaar, the ruins of the Golconda, the falooda, biryani (vegetarian!), the absolute chaos on the roads with pedestrians, hawkers, cyclists, autorickshaws, two-wheelers, cars and buses jostling for space in that narrow galli (every rule on the road is a rule meant to be broken - Bangalore, please take note), the Karachi Bakery biscuits, the Lasa Lamsa tea, the beautiful architecture of the erstwhile Nawabi State (now mostly government offices), the mosques and last but not the least, the kalamkari fabrics and the pearls!
Some reminicenses......

Never mind that I suffered a bad attack of flu which was attributed to the falooda. It may or may not have triggered it, but at the end of 2 days, I enjoyed what the city offered!

I am a Frost Girl!!!

My first poem of Robert Frost ended with the lines made popular by Nehru:

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep."

From thereon, I have read some of his poems and each one has left an impression in some way or the other.

I recently re-read two poems after a while : "Fire and Ice" and "Reluctance" and got immersed in it, totally!

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

Out through the fields and the woods

And over the walls I have wended;

I have climbed the hills of view

And looked at the world, and descended;

I have come by the highway home,

And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground,

Save those that the oak is keeping

To ravel them one by one

And let them go scraping and creeping

Out over the crusted snow,

When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,

No longer blown hither and thither;

The last long aster is gone;

The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;

The heart is still aching to seek,

But the feet question 'Whither?'
Ah, when to the heart of man

Was it ever less than a treason

To go with the drift of things,

To yield with a grace to reason,

And bow and accept the end

Of a love or a season?

Lets your mind ponder over so many things and reflect on the lessons learnt and not learnt in hindsight! :)